Open Access provides the means to maximise the visibility, and thus the uptake and use, of research outputs. Open Access is the immediate, online, free availability of research outputs without the severe restrictions on use commonly imposed by publisher copyright agreements. It is definitely not vanity publishing or self-publishing, nor about the literature that scholars might normally expect to be paid for, such as books for which they hope to earn royalty payments. It concerns the outputs that scholars normally give away free to be published – peer-reviewed journal articles, conference papers and datasets of various kinds.
Not only scholars benefit from Open Access. They are the most obvious beneficiaries, perhaps, because their work gains instant worldwide visibility, and they also gain as readers if much more world research is available on an Open Access basis for them to access freely and read. But there are many other beneficiaries, too.
Research institutions benefit from having a management information tool that enables them to assess and monitor their research programmes, and they have a marketing tool that enables them to provide a shop window for their research efforts. The same advantages apply to external research funders who need to be able to access and keep track of outputs from their funding, and measure and assess how effectively their money has been spent. They also can ensure that the results of their spending have had the widest possible dissemination.
It is because Open Access is so much in the interest of research funders and employers that an increasing number of them around the world are introducing Open Access policies that require their funded researchers to provide Open Access to their work.
The advantages of Open Access for science and scholarship are, in brief:
• Open Access brings greater visibility and impact
• Open Access moves research along faster
• Open Access enables better management and assessment of research
• Open Access provides the material on which the new semantic web tools for data-mining and text-mining can work, generating new knowledge from existing findings
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A comprehensive overview of Open Access by Peter Suber